I arrived into Austin last week to rehearse the USA premiere of Orpheus.
I flew from Sydney to Dallas, arriving to a tornado warning in a hot and steamy part of the world.
My first reflections, while in a cab to downtown, driving through thick rain, was how wet and green east Texas is. The Hollywood perception is of a dusty, wild place not a land of farming, big rivers and sub-tropical storms.
I was only in Dallas for the evening, but I visited the spot of JFK’s assasination and viewed what was the Texas book depository. These sort of spaces are fascinating to me. A very ordinary part of the world is now imbued with a nostalgia, importance and melancholy of the events that occurred there. It also sort of elevates the feeling of a place. It’s just an ordinary intersection, in the downtown area of any town in the US, with a Main Street and American flags and elegant and simple monuments from the New Deal time. But now you can feel that this spot was once an area that held the gaze of the country and the world.
Texas Book Depository, now a museum to JFK and the assasination.
A New Deal era redevelopment, with added monument to JFK.
I then took a bus from Dallas to Austin, which passed through Waco. I had just watched the HBO series on the plane about David Koresch, so was an odd feeling passing through the real area.
Arrived into Austin, which automatically had a more welcoming, busy and cosmopolitan vibe to Dallas. A smaller city, but proud of its weirdness it has a very familiar feeling to Melbourne. It stands up to its reputation as a blue dot in a sea of red.
Aside from the usual tourist traps of the Capitols building, museums and parks I’ve enjoyed wanting downtown and east Austin. One of the biggest irritations for melbournians mourning to USA is the adventures faced for good coffee, and I’d say my Austin experience has been a strong 7.5 out of 10, so pretty damn good considering. Jess Voigt, a pal from VCA days was helpful showing me some good coffee and excellent food. I stayed with her for a few nights and was great to catch up, talk old times and hear about her plans and projects here in Austin.
My reason traveling to ATX is to rehearse and perform Orpheus. In a slightly revised version, it’s been a thrill working with Density 512 and Prismatx ensemble on this piece. The three singers have been inspiring, powerful and incredibly well prepared. The musicians have an excellent sound, very confident, full and rich.
We were lucky enough to perform some extracts on a public radio station yesterday, which is broadcast today and will be added to their website, which I will share when ready.
It’s interesting to think of the differences with Aussie musicians, especially on a work with rhythmic complexity and such a richness of tone required. I think in Oz we have such a strong focus on chamber music in our training that rhythm and the ability to listen, balance and match colour while playing is perhaps more adept then our American cousins. However, the richness of sound with this group, and the tone colour present in the ensemble is very different to what I experience when we did the work in Oz.
The gallery were performing in is a concrete space, with a nice acoustic. The audience received the first performance (last night at time of writing) warmly and I received some really lovely feedback from audience members. I had some really lovely words from composer Akshaya Avril Tucker. I was lucky enough to hear a concert of her music earlier in the week, which included a remarkable work for solo cello that I’d love to try and program in Melbourne.
As as I write this I’m enjoying a coffee and some downtime before another wander. We have the final performance tonight and then tomorrow I’m going to a library as part of the university that has in its collections, among other things, original scores of La Mer, Daphnis et Chloe (quoted in Orpheus) and correspondence from composers, authors and artists. Very excited for that!
The next part of the journey will take me to Los Angels for pride.
Thoughts on new works:
- something for Jess, as a thank you
- development of a cycle for voice and piano to include some short piano solo pieces
Special thanks to the Ian Potter Cultural Trust for contributing funds to making this trip and performance possible.
*apologies for any weird typos, this has been written on my phone!
EURYDICE Jill Suzanne Morgan, mezzo-soprano
ORPHEUS Michael Dixon, tenor
CALAÏS Mikhail Smigelski, bass-baritone
Density 512 in collaboration with prismatx ensemble
Evan Lawson, conductor
François Minaux, flutes
Bethany Lawrence, oboe, english horn
Abbey Young, clarinet
Sarah Hetrick, saxophones
Alexander Cruz, trombone
Ellie Yamanaka, harp
Cy Miessler, percussion
Alan Chen, violin
Matt Armbruster, cello
Andy Rogers, bass
Sara Sasaki, Director of prismatx series
View from the Butler School of music, where some rehearsals took place.